The complexity of human relations, the multitude of events in the political, economic and social spheres of life, the enormous problems of society and the environment, put together, often create a feeling of helplessness in many people. Muslims and non-Muslims alike face this same predicament because of their inability to evaluate, explain and relate the hows and whys of events.

Many have resigned themselves to the social forces in society. Others have reasons of their own for turning a blind eye to society as a whole. They have immediate problems of their own to think about-their job security, wage differentials, family preoccupations and a host of other things. They do not bother about issues on a global scale until their immediate interests are satisfied.

Many Muslims simply shun away from what they regard as the disorders of modern life saying that society is in such a state because man today is materialistic and refuses to acknowledge God.

This may be a true and fair comment but are we to turn a blind eye to modern developments, merely branding society as kafir (unbelieving)? All Muslim workers must realise the fact that all the Prophets and Messengers of God brought assurances of a just and blessed life on this earth. They brought good tidings and did not just call people to submit to God because of the fear of punishment in the hereafter. Their message dealt with the complex demands of human life and emphasised the real meaning and purpose of life on this earth. They were themselves living examples of the message they conveyed even though it involved opposition and persecution from those who refused to accept this message.

From the example of the Prophets and Messengers are derived the techniques of da’wah (the invitation to Islam) for all times. Many Muslims today in expounding the message of Islam can explain very well the meaning of laa ilaaha illa Allah (there is no deity but the One True God)- the fundamental monotheistic doctrine of Islam.

They can point out the various false gods that people follow consciously and unconsciously, ranging from alien philosophies to their own selfish passions. This is already a good start but the language used and the method employed make the message intelligible only to Muslims and not to non-Muslims. Non-Muslims would probably see such a presentation as a typical theological argument of one of the many religions that exist in the world today. The “Muslims”, a majority of whom are secularized, westernised or confused, would see this message as a further compounding of the technicalities of the Islamic faith. Such an approach may not attract them to the faith because the message is not presented as giving an answer to his concerns, worries and dissatisfaction.

An improved approach which many Muslim workers have mastered is the elaboration on the consequences of rejection of faith after explaining the meaning of laa ilaaha ilia Allah. They can elaborate on the point that if man submits to false gods, he would face contradictions and problems in his life and human society would be in disorder. Arguments of this nature can be found in “Towards Understanding Islam” (Chapter 1 ) and in “Milestones” (Chapter 6). This technique is good and has more wisdom but it still does not win over the hearts of the majority of people on its own because these ideal concepts do not seem to be close to man’s immediate needs. Many people would have some glimpse of the answer to their problems but would not be satisfied because the Muslim worker cannot explain and evaluate the causes and conditions that bring about specific problems such as rising prices, pollution or job insecurity. Here is where many Muslim workers have failed. We cannot expect Muslim scholars such as Maududi or Sayyid Qutb to explain every detail or solution to each problem. What they have expounded is the solid base on which Islam stands. They have expounded the principles. The Muslim workers have to think more deeply and evaluate contemporary events based on these principles.

People today do not talk in terms of which religion is good. They talk in terms of “How do you curb inflation?” or “How do we cure the moral degeneration among youth today?” or “How much social security can I get with this government?” and so on. These are the things that are close to their hearts. Their minds are focussed on such issues. Such issues are of “make or break” concern to them. And as long as the concern remains unanswered, they remain uninterested in practically everything else. These issues are of course deeply related to people’s overall attitude towards life and the purpose of existence.

In considering the demands of da’wah, we must realise that we are going to spread the message to people who have a particular attitude, a particular way of looking at things, a particular concern, be they Muslim or non-Muslim. We must be able to respond positively and critically to the burning issues of the time using the eternal principles of Islam and presenting effective and tactful arguments. We know that no other way of life can adequately answer the problems of man and society. Many problems “solved” in the light of purely man-made legislation and assumptions would only cause other problems to rise up. Only Islam, being the wisdom and guidance from God, can provide the real answer to the problems of humanity. We must not run away from facing or tackling these issues because lasting solutions can only be found on the basis of Islamic principles. For as long as Muslims are not able to answer and talk about the issues of everyday life in relation to belief, then Islam would continue to be looked upon as a mere religion only, which soothes the spiritual needs of man. This is a current attitude towards Islam and Muslims must rectify this narrow attitude.

Keeping the above aim in mind, we must also be aware that kufr (unbelief) today is very well structured to perpetuate its own assumptions and goals. From its essentially secular philosophy, institutions are established, politics is shaped and economic and social organisations is structured. Many are the organisations and institutions that comprise the system, whether it be a political party, a trade union, an industrial organisation, a regional organisation like the EEC, a multinational corporation or others.

These institutions it is that make the present world go round no matter what the masses think of the present life, whether they are discontented and aspire for change or not. In certain cases, even when Islam is presented as the solution and the masses accept it, they find an impossible state of affairs where they cannot get out of the strangle- hold of secular institutions. They see themselves controlled by a Kufr economic system, they see international power politics influencing events in many a Muslim country to move in undesired directions. But they remain helpless onlookers who do not know the way out even with their high hopes in Islam.

Power in society resides in these institutions and organisations. It is they who propagate and facilitate vice; it is they who introduce all kinds of amenities and activities that bring about various deviations in society causing it to lose its integrity and cohesion. Kufr today dominates societies all over the world, for its own end, controlling them and leading them away from all traces of religiosity and moral goodness. How is this power system structured and where does the ultimate power lie?

We must be able to see how the structure of power in a society is. We must be able to see how the affairs in a country are controlled-is it internally or externally? How is it facilitated-is it through multinational corporations, foreign aid or the banking system? As an example, let us take the case of a Muslim country whose economy is more than fifty per cent foreign controlled. Economic control leads to political control, which means that any regime that comes into power cannot make major changes in the economy even though the aspiration is there to help the poor (at least on paper). Political control brings about the control of the mass media, the control of information, the shaping of attitudes, the suppression of “subversive” forces and the like. This kufr power is well organised and often subtly hidden from the eyes of the masses.

In this age, advanced science and technology have removed the barriers which isolate nations. Various political, economic and military groupings are thus able to influence each other, and on a wider scale. It is in this setting that we have to identify and link up the tools and institutions of power so that the evil design of kufr forces can be exposed. A clear understanding of how these forces act and influence the trends in society can contribute to a more effective means of channelling our resources and efforts so as to steer changes in the desired direction.

Further, we are in a better position to chart our course of action in the face of contending forces and ideologies which are struggling to establish themselves over the face of the earth and naturally at the expense of al-Islam. Hence, equipped with such additional knowledge as outlined above, and the ability to make calculated moves in a wise manner, we will, in sha Allah, be able to play our role more effectively in leading mankind to the path of al- Islam-the path of righteousness and success (falah) both in this world and the hereafter.

The Muslim
August-November 1977